With blogging stoking so many creative fires out there, and self-publishing being easier than ever, more and more people are considering writing books of their own. And since pretty well everyone says "write what you know", most people start with autobiographical works. In the last year, I've been asked to contribute chapters for four books, all requiring varying degrees of self-revelation. At first it was a piece of cake, because I was writing with my professional hat on. A funny thing happened on the way to Become Your Own Great and Powerful, though. I was asked to tell MY story. The woman behind her work, behind her marriage, behind all that safe stuff. Suddenly I realized it's one thing to give examples and another ENTIRELY to be one!
If you are involved in a similar project, or considering it, maybe I can help smooth the path for you. Here are the decision points I came to along the way.
First decision: What is my story?
When you reflect on your life in earnest, it is amazing how many threads you will find in your personal tapestry: career threads, relationship threads, family history, medical history… childhood threads, adult threads. My task was to look over my life and find that that best expressed what I had come to believe about personal power. I speak with others about such concepts all the time but the process of tracing the lineage of one's own world view is quite remarkable. If you look back at issues such as power, trust, faith, leadership, self-esteem, success or failure and trace your history with that concept it's amazing to see what emerges. I highly recommend it.
Second decision: Who is telling this story?
If you are like most folks, you have many versions of your life story. We each possess a private and a public self and within each of those selves are a myriad of micro-selves. For every vignette deemed relevant to my story, I was aware that several versions of me were competing to tell the tale. I might relate a story one way if the audience were my husband and another if it were my sister, or a client, my husband's boss, or a neighbor. Details would be altered and the emotions I would reveal would hinge upon the nature of my relationship with the audience and my comfort in the revelation. For me, reflecting on the issue of personal power, I knew my private self would have to be revealed.
Third decision: Egads! Am I really willing to tell you that story?
Having picked up my thread, and cleared my voice, I began to craft my story. With wonderful feedback and encouragement from my support team I immersed myself in my writing. "I can't wait to read the next part!" was the consistent response. Then it happened. Have you ever been in the middle of telling someone a story when you realize you are heading smack in to a detail or six that you really don't want to share but are already committed to telling? Well, there I was, rolling merrily along and suddenly I realized that gaining personal power in the long run is also about all those times you lost it, or gave it away, or simply made a bad move.
I was kind of hoping to tell you the version about the hip coach who always had her act together and has been a paragon of strength and wisdom since birth. Sad fact is, I had a few missteps along the way and if I only told you the highpoints I'd have some mighty big gaps in my story. It's the same problem you face if you have long gaps on a resume. You can try to spin it in an interview, but part of you knows you were eating Doritos on the couch and watching Jerry Springer at least some of the time you were licking your "right-sized" wounds.
I took the plunge and continued to write.
The Ultimate Question: Can I stand with my own humanity?
Am I willing to do that even if I am not sure who will stand alongside me? For me, the answer has been YES! Embracing my own journey means embracing all of it and not shying away from the parts I'd rather forget. It means accepting myself even through times of confusion, bad decisions, and… embarrassing haircuts. It's easy to have self-esteem when you are winning the game. It's much harder to love oneself through the dark times.
In the end, it's such a rewarding process to undertake a process like this, even if you suspect it will just end up in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. Telling the real story, if only to yourself, may be the most important thing in the end.
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